We have been guiding the waters in South Eastern British Columbia and South Eastern Alberta for 15 years. Its all about having fun on the water.
Some of the Earth's greatest landscapes are right here in our backyard. We pride ourselves on having fun out there and enjoying the day while still producing great results. Most of our clients have been fishing with us for over ten years. Please take a look at our reviews page for more info.
All photography provided by Jeff Mironuck
Seasons and what you can expect
We generally have a very short guiding season but it is packed with excitement. Most of our rivers open June 15th and we are usually putting away our guiding gear by the end of October. Since we do bounce around a lot from stream to steam in both Alberta and BC there is always something fishing at its peak.
July can be a real exciting time to be a fishing guide for Home Waters. The hatches are awesome with Golden Stones hatching on every river including the Elk River, St.Mary River, Waterton River and all of the smaller creeks in between. We usually watch the Elk River for stoneflies on the 15th of June depending on how the run off is. This is never easy to gauge and after 20 years of watching the river I still don’t have a clue. It really comes down to a combination of snowpack, rain and warm temperature. It’s usually 50/50 weather we are guiding or not in June. I never recommend booking on the Elk River before July 15th. The last couple years I have seen a lot of guides out there rowing down a muddy river with clients that booked a trip too early. The best way to book these trips is more of less at the last minute. Pick up the phone and call to check conditions!
However on those years when the rivers are clear you don’t want to miss out. The stone flies drive trout crazy and since the trout haven’t seen a fly in months in can be the best big fly fishing of the year. July also can bring out the famous Green Drake Hatch. These big mayflies are a blast to fish both from a drift boat and the shore.
Over on the Alberta side we are really busy floating the Waterton River and St.Mary River. This is the best time of year to float these streams since the higher water levels allow us to get on them with our drift boats. Great streamer, nymph and dry fly fishing with the rainbows and browns being a lot less picky than they get later in the year. The cold river conditions and great hatches make the trout feed all day long. Plus in July we get long warm days that bring out caddis in the evening for even more dry fly fishing. If you’re looking to become a better angler and experience some huge rainbows and browns then you have to book a float trip in July on these waters.
In August we are usually found fishing the Elk River and the Wigwam River near Fernie plus all of the tribs. I always say you can’t go wrong booking a trip in August. Its prime time on the Elk River and simply put it’s consistent year after year. We get good mayfly hatches but it’s really about the terrestrials. The August ant hatch is a sight to see. Add that to a good hopper hatch and perfect water conditions for sight fishing make floating the Elk River in August a no-brainer.
We also spend a lot of time fishing the tributaries on the Elk River. The Wigwam River is where you will find the guides on days off. We love guiding and fishing this river and we are one of the only licensed outfitters that can take you here. The Wigwam River might be the most beautiful and complete river I have ever fished. The beauty of the Wigwam is second to none and its filled with large native cutthroat trout as well as large native Bull Trout. This stream is heavily protected by the government and the local guides are only allowed to take a few anglers here each year.
The hatches on the Wigwam River are wonderful. PMD’s, Green Drakes, BWO’s and Flaves are regular hatches every afternoon on the river. Combine that with the chance to hook a bull trout over ten pounds and it’s no wonder it’s known as the “guide’s choice”.
September is always our busiest month. The weather is usually great and the water conditions on every stream are perfect. On the hot days you can fish small terrestrials and sight fish in the shallows. This time of year the trout know winter is coming and they are eager to feed on whatever might be available. On cooler days you can bank on Blue Winged Olives (bwo’s) to get every trout in the river to feed on the surface. Last year we had days on the Elk River where we would pull the boat over as the hatch was on and see hundreds of trout feeding on the surface, some only a couple feet away from the boat.
As the season ends we also head back to Alberta to target both rainbows on the St.Mary and brown trout on the Waterton. It’s a great time of year to be out on the water. The crowds are gone but for those willing to fish as the season draws to a close the rewards are great. Just picture yourself casting a small mayfly to a large rainbow feeding in only a foot of water. It’s a great way to finish off another season fly fishing in the west.
Give us a call to discuss your fishing trip in 2019.
January 11th, 2019 Newsletter
This is always the time of year I start to long for a warm summer day on the water. Cabin Fever is real for those of us that live out in the West. This weekend it looks like we will see highs of 44-46 degrees and yes, we are going fishing!
Last year’s success still has the Home Waters crew beaming. Beginning with our Montana trips from April to July and of course ending with an epic fall on the upper Kootenay River in Canada. Of course, summer in the Northwest was once again simply awesome, with excellent fishing consistent on all our rivers including the St.Mary, Bull, Elk and Oldman.
In every effort to show our guests more water, we brought in two more jet boats and even a raft to open us to more waters, making our daily trips out of Fernie even more productive.
To add to the excitement, we’ve added a new guide to the 2019 Team. Chris Dawson has been an angling friend for years; a phenomenal guide for many more. Chris has guided for one of our friendly competitors for years and I’ve always wanted to have him work with us. Chris is the author of a great fly fishing book, Due North of Montana. I’m really looking forward to having Chris out there with us.
In 2019, we will once again begin our season running our Montana streams in April our. Last year I received my full certification for the US Coastguard Captains license. With my friend Scott Willemson, we stay very busy guiding on the Missouri River and of course the Sun River. On the Missouri in the spring, we run our jets, and on the Sun River we are in both rafts and drift boats. We also fish quite a bit on the “Land of the Giants” section of the Missouri where the scenery is awesome, and the rainbows and browns are huge. Its not uncommon to catch a dozen trout over 20 inches in a single day. For those of you looking for a 3-4 day Montana trip in the spring, we often combine our Missouri and Sun River trips.
The Sun River really has a special place in my heart when it comes to trout streams. It is a tailwater but much like fishing the Elk River. If you didn’t know there was a damn upstream it would very much look like a classic trout stream filled with mainly browns and rainbows. We fish this stream mostly in May and June when the stoneflies are out. The Sun river also has great caddis and mayfly hatches. The Sun is remote and quiet. We have three great long floats on the river and they are completely unique. The first day I fished the Sun I landed 12 browns between 14-20 inches all on dries. The scenery on the Sun river is second to none. From the moment I first floated the Sun I was hooked forever.
Our summer program will once again fill up fairly fast. We run a pretty small group of experienced guides, combine that with a limited number of days on the water, and we tend to sell out fairly fast. The rivers we guide in Canada are restricted and each outfitter gets a limited number of permits to use each season. This limits the number of boats you will see on the water and although it limits our business, it’s much better for both the fish and the angler. With normal snowpack levels we are expecting another great year on the waters around Fernie.
One major addition to our 2019 program in Fernie is that we will be offering Heli trips into the Wigwam River. We did a few last year with Dean Richard guiding them and the reviews were incredible. We don’t charge for the heli, it’s just our regular day rate for the Wigwam River. Prices vary depending on how far you fly.
Our reviews of these trips last year were outstanding. The fish acted like they have never seen a fly before and in many cases they probably haven’t. The heli can land so close to the river that this makes it an easy trip for just about anyone. We have some really cool videos from last year which I will post on the site or you can just email me and ill send them out! The Wigwam River is a special place and we can take the 3-4 hour hike out of the picture getting you more time on the river. There are only 150 anglers who are able to go on the Wigwam River with a guide each year and our allotment of permits generally sells out quickly.
In 2019 we will also be adding a second jet boat to our Oldman River trips. I know many of you were wanting to put groups of 4-6 on this river in jets and now with our additional boats we can do that. This river is not for everyone and sometimes its unfishable due to wind but as many of you know its my absolute favorite. When you manage to hit it right, there isn’t a stream anywhere that can beat it. Late July to end of September is by far the best time to hit this river. We seem to have our best dry fly fishing during this timeframe.
Last year we also discovered how good the Bull River and the St. Mary River can be in July. Especially for Bull trout and jet boats. Both of these rivers are very good but seem to be very spot specific. Meaning it’s more important to fish the best banks and holding water than on many other rivers. The jets give us the chance to fish the best banks and pools more than once.
2019 was a banner year on the Kootenay River for the trophy Bull Trout. The Kootenay River (upper) is a cold, clean, and untouched piece of water. It is very much still a wild place and similar to Alaska in many ways. Bull Trout require clean and totally pure water to thrive and the Kootenay River definitely delivers. We had anglers as young as 8 landing 12-pound trout and of course one of my favorite guys in his 80s landed a true monster after a 30-minute battle. I know he and I will both remember that for a long time. It was a special moment with two great guys that I have fished with for years. I really think last October we figured a lot of things out on that river. We are fishing a fairly new watershed and it’s a short season. October only! The Bull Trout are finished spawning and they are hungry. These trout are mainly between 10-20 pounds and spend most of the year feeding in Koocanusa Reservoir on Kokanee Salmon. The fight is great and we averaged 5-7 fish per boat each day over 10 pounds. This is a short window and I know it will be filling up fast in 2019 as everyone who joined us last year is coming back. The crystal-clear waters and aggressive trout on the Kootenay make this trip pretty special and a great way to end the year.
We are starting to book up fast for 2019. Hope to hear from you soon and if you have any questions give me a call. I’m spending the next couple months on the ski hill and on the phone talking fishing!
2016 year in review and a look at 2017
I want to first start off by thanking all of the new clients who made the choice to give us a try in 2016. I know many of you have already booked again for 2017. I have to say that last year was probably the best fishing I've seen on the Elk River and our other surrounding waters in five years. The guides really had a lot of fun this year, pretty easy when the conditions stay great all year. Most of our clients have been fishing with us for 10-15 years and you guys keep coming back. We appreciate it so much. It's always great to see old friends and we will keep exploring new waters for you.
Our season in Canada began early with trips on the Bow River in Alberta and the Oldman River also in Alberta. May turned out to be one of the best months of the year. I got out myself in April on the Oldman River just to check it out. I was blown away by the dry fly fishing that I experienced and no one was on the water. Rising fish everywhere and when other places are experiencing high water conditions due to run off this tail water is perfect. As many of you know the combination of fishing the Elk River in British Columbia and many of our streams in Alberta really make for an exciting trip out west. The Oldman River has really consistent hatches. We find pods of rising every day of this river. The last couple years I have really fallen for this stream. I'm probably spending half of my guiding days a year now on this river. The powerful browns and rainbows never seem to disappoint.
We also fish a couple other streams this time of year. The St. Mary River in Alberta and the Waterton are both close. These streams are some of the best in the world but the season is very short. Some years the window to fish these trophy waters is less than a month. We fill up fast and if you are looking for a trip like this give us a call to look at the prime dates. We run both drift boats and jet boats on these waters and prime time is June 15th to July 15th.
In 2016 our trips on the Elk River in British Columbia began in mid June. While the Oldman and the St. Mary were also on our hit list we added some days on the Waterton River in Alberta and the Bull River in B.C. This is the time of year that all our guides are either fishing or guiding. We are totally up to date on whats going on out there. None of our guides are stuck in a shop!
The Elk River started out hot this year with world class dry fly fishing. Our golden stone fly hatch came right on schedule and these huge bugs that normally last a month did not disappoint. We chased the hatch upstream on the Elk right into August. We also found PMD hatches and green drakes hatches on the Elk River that seemed to come out every single afternoon. All of our guides were reporting simply amazing days out there and that sure makes every trip enjoyable to be on.
Another thing that a lot of people don't realize is that August is one of our best months. While most of the rivers in Montana and Idaho are too warm to fish we are just far enough north that our waters remain cool. I always say we have a short season in Fernie but it's a really good one. When the drought is on in Montana just look to the north.
With an average snow pack and a nice warm spring we also found great fly fishing early on our smaller rivers such as the Bull River and the Wigwam River both located in British Columbia near Fernie. As many of you know these are limited access waters and you need to book very early for these waters. The Wigwam River fished well all season. Our walk and wade guide Dean Richard honestly never had a bad day out there. We are really lucky to have Dean on our staff here at Home Waters. Dean loves these little streams in British Columbia. If he's not booked with clients he literally fishes everyday. We have 12 different walk and wade waters within an hours drive of Fernie and no one knows these like Dean. Water levels in 2016 were prime for dry fly fishing on all of these smaller streams. Every year we discover new spots and 2017 will be no different.
In 2017 I think its going to more important than ever to plan your trip ahead of time. A lot of our clients that make the journey to Fernie for a week or so may only book us as guides for 3-4 days. Since many of our waters such as the Wigwam River and Michel Creek are limited access you need to buy your daily license early. Most of the days are sold out in March. If you are planning a trip give us a call so we can walk you through the process.
In 2016 we also started fishing some new areas on the Elk River. Most of the guides out of Fernie stick close to town and only fish a couple different stretches. We now have 11 different floats that we hit on a regular basis. While most of the guides that work for the shops are just doing the easy economical floats our guides are really going the extra mile. Some of our new floats are a little rough on the boats and shuttles are difficult but it's worth it at the end of the day when you have the river to yourself.
Trout numbers in the Elk River in 2016 were the best we have seen in several years. Our class of trout in the 3-4 year range was excellent and that leads us to believe that 2017 will be another great year on the Elk.
The Oldman River where we spend a lot of time was also a year to remember. The brown trout numbers increased by 300 percent. It was a lot of fun over there. We had many days where we would catch 10-20 brown trout per boat. Rainbow numbers stayed high as well and as many of you know the Oldman River is quite simply my favorite river in the world. It never ceases to amaze me. The season on the Oldman River runs from April to November with really good dry fly fishing found just about everyday.
I can't wait to see what 2017 will bring on our waters and I hope to share it with you.